Bree and Santon waited in the dark, outside the Shrine of Nethys. They sat silently, with their backs pressed up the stone wall. Hours passed. Slowly, the sun creeped over the horizon.
“He’s not coming back.” Bree said.
“We should go back and tell the others,” she continued.
Santon shook his head. “Let’s press on. There was a fire at the fort past Kelmarane. We should travel there first before looping back around to the monastery.”
Bree paused. Santon’s fists were clenched. He didn’t care about telling the others. He only cared about getting back at the gnolls.
They had no reason to believe that the wereleopard was associated with them, of course. He had been staying alone at the shrine and would have been a danger to the gnolls. Still, Santon was angry at them. Angry they were there. Angry that he was here. Angry at their incessant howling.
He was angry at himself for being afraid. For being guilty.
He was angry at Fudin for leaving. For not forgiving him.
He was angry with Nes for dying. For succumbing. For not killing himself with the poisoned flower.
Santon wanted action. He wanted violence. He wanted blood on his sword that deserved to be there.
Bree nodded. “Okay. We’ll go to the old fort.”
She stood and stretched. It had been a long night. Neither of them slept. Neither of them had wanted to.
They set out south, fording the river where they had a few days ago. Where Fudin had shown them it was safest. They skirted the river, heading north, aiming to go up and around Kelmarane, and then west, through the foothills, to the old fort.
They had barely come up even with Kelmarane when a scream cut across the plains. Bree and Santon froze. Listening. It was coming from Kelmarane. Worse, it was human.
Bree and Santon threw themselves to the ground, hoping that they had not been seen. They crawled closer to town. It took them a few minutes of travel before they managed to find the source of the cries.
Atop a rise, right in front the large building the gnolls were using for a base, knelt a man. A gnoll stood to each side of him, holding him in place. In front of him was a third gnoll who held a pair of red hot tongs in his furry hands. The gnoll dug the tongs into the man’s body, and pulled out his intestines coil by coil. The man screamed in agonized wails. Behind him were four more gnolls who held three other captives between them, forcing them to watch.
Bree stood and drew her sword. Santon grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her back down.
“You’ll get yourself killed!” he said sternly.
Bree shrugged off his grip and stood up again. “I don’t care! They’re killing that man, Santon!”
Santon grit his teeth. “I know.”
“And you’re not going to help me save him? You’re going to sit here, watching? Doing nothing?” She spat at the ground.
“That’s right in front of their base! They have an army!”
She shook her head. “You’re a sober coward!”
“You’ll die, Bree. I’m not going to let you die, too.”
“I’m not afraid of dying trying to do what’s right.”
“You should be.”
“No! I’m afraid of being too scared to try.”
Santon paused, then slowly nodded his head. “We’ll have to loop around, to the east. Try to skirt the town’s defenses.”
Bree nodded. “Fine, let’s just go before – “
It had grown silent. The screams had stopped. Bree squinted into the distance. The man lay dead in the square. The gnolls who had tortured him devoured his corpse. The three other prisoners were led away, back into the large building.
“Froth and foam!” She was too late.
Bree chuckled. Wait? For what?
Santon grabbed her arm and turned her to the town. “There!” He pointed at the road leading from the upper half of town to the lower half. “They’re not taking them back to the battle market. They’re taking them to the old pesh fields.”
The pesh fields?
Santon took off at a run. “Come on. We might be able to make it.”
Bree dashed after him.
“We might even live,” he called back to her.
Bree smiled grimly. “We just might.”
Cayden’s will be done.